Death Toll in Massive Oakland Warehouse Fire Rises to 33
Update: A criminal investigation is also underway.
Screengrab via Oakland Firefighters Twitter.
Oakland fire officials have confirmed 33 people are dead and many still missing after a fire broke out at a warehouse party in Oakland on Friday night.
The massive blaze occurred at Ghost Ship, a live/work space and DIY venue in Oakland's Fruitvale neighborhood. The fire broke out at 11:30 PM on Friday during a party for LA label 100% Silk, which featured performances from Golden Donna, Cherushii, and Nackt.
50 people were reportedly in the venue when the fire broke out. Firefighters spent the overnight hours picking through the ruins and discovered more fatalities, according to the New York Times.
"We've only been able to do three official notifications to families so this is going very slow for us because we have to go back to our coroner's bureau and try to identify these people," said Alameda County sheriff's Sergeant Ray Kelly to NBC Bay Area. Captain Melanie Ditzenberger of the Alameda County Coroner's Bureau has requested families of the missing "preserve sources of DNA" such as combs and toothbrushes for the identification process.
Early on Saturday morning, Oakland Fire Chief Teresa Deloach-Reed spoke with reporters at the scene of the fire. In the above clip, posted by an East Bay Times reporter, Deloach-Reed said that there's "still a lot of the building that needs to be searched." She also said a task force from Alameda County has been called in to assist in the fire investigation.
Carmen Brito, a writer and artist who has resided at Ghost Ship for the past 11 months, described the venue as "the most beautiful space" she's lived in.
"I kind of described it like if an I Spy book had a baby with the Goonies movie, and it was a shipwreck of just old wood and Balinese beds and all of these statues and shrines," she told THUMP. "I've never seen anything like it and I don't think there will be anything quite like it again."
Brito arrived home around 7PM last night and ended up falling asleep. She woke up to her entire studio filled with smoke. After shouting for help, she eventually left her studio.
"I somehow got my shoes on and my coat on and by the time I stepped out of my space, I could see flames about 20 feet in front of me that were over eight feet high. Like an entire wall was covered," she said. Brito told other people to run out of the space, and left around 11:20 PM. Outside, she dialed 911, who arrived within minutes. Brito told THUMP one of her friends who also lived in the space is still missing.
Aja Archuleta, who was scheduled to perform last night, was a Ghost Ship regular. She had just finished setting up her equipment for a performance around 1 AM and was filling in at the door.
"I barely had a minute to settle into my seat at the door when a pair of people on the first floor came running towards the door from the far end of the building yelling 'FIRE!' Archuleta told THUMP.
Concerned friends and family members of possible guests at the venue took to social media to get confirmation of their loved ones' safety. A Facebook post listing performers and crew unaccounted surfaced on Saturday; it includes Cherushii (Chelsea Faith) and Nackt (Johnny Igaz). Dais Records confirmed Cash Askew of the band Them Are Us Too was among the deceased.
A Google spreadsheet has additionally been created to help identify the people missing. It also includes instructions and community resources for the local community.
"An entire community and family of musicians, artists, queers, and community organizers were in that building," Archuleta said. "Some of the purest and most amazing souls I have been blessed to know in this existence helped organize that event last night."
On Saturday afternoon, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement on the incident via an email from the city's Police Department: "Last night's fire was an immense tragedy. I am grateful to our first responders for their efforts to deal with this deadly fire. Our focus right now is on the victims and their families and ensuring that we have a full accounting for everyone who was impacted by this tragedy. We are fully committed to sharing as much information as we can as quickly as possible."
Amanda Brown, the founder of 100% Silk—an imprint of the label Not Not Fun, which she runs with her husband, Britt Brown—released a statement on Facebook early on Saturday afternoon, expressing her grief. "What happened in Oakland is an unbelievable tragedy, a nightmare scenario. Britt and I are beside ourselves, utterly devastated," she wrote. "We are a very tight community of artists and we are all praying, sending love and condolences to everyone involved and their families." Read the entire statement below.
The Gray Area Foundation for the Arts, an arts organization and exhibition space in San Francisco, has set up a YouCaring page to provide relief for victims of the fire. The Oakland A's and Oakland Raiders have also set up a YouCaring page and the team will match donations up to $30,000. The Golden State Warriors held a moment of silence last night for the victims of the fire and Coach Steve Kerr released a statement. The team will also donate $50,000 to victims.
According to statements the Oakland Police Department sent to THUMP, the Alameda County Coroner's Bureau has established a Family Assistance Center in coordination with the American Red Cross located at 2425 East 12th Street in Oakland. Families and friends concerned about missing people can visit the Family Assistance Center or call the center at (510) 382-3000.
In a heavily criticized and now-deleted statement posted to his Facebook page, Derick Ion, who reportedly ran the space, wrote, "It's as if I have awoken from a dream filled with opulence and hope ... to be standing now in poverty of self worth." Ion, his wife and children were staying in a hotel during the Friday event, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.
The Los Angeles Times reports the warehouse space was cited for three violations this year, including an illegal building on the property and trash buildup, and that the building was not permitted for use as housing. On November 14, the owners of the space received a formal complain with a "housing habitability" charge for an "illegal interior building structure," reports the Guardian. The city's investigation into the complaint was still ongoing when the fire occurred. Firefighters also informed the East Bay Times that there was no sprinkler system in the two-story building, and no evidence that the smoke detectors were activated. The paper described the incident as possibly one of the deadliest single-structure fires in Oakland's history.
Many in the music world have offered messages of support for those affected.
THUMP will update this post as the story develops.